Gambling Addiction

What is Gambling Addiction?

A simple desire to scratch a ticket, play a slot or visit a casino is not necessarily a sign of gambling addiction but when this desire is so compulsive that you just can’t stop thinking about it until you take action, there may be a problem in your life. Gambling addiction is characterized by a compulsive desire to gamble that is marked with an inability to control behaviors when gambling. Those who suffer from gambling addiction will continue to gamble (either daily or possibly just on a binge) despite negative financial, legal and social consequences.

Many people who are addicted to gambling will do things that they never would have done if it weren’t for their addiction such as stealing money from friends or family members or taking part in illegal activities in an effort to get more money either to gamble or to pay debts. Despite a desire to quit, many compulsive gamblers are unable to control their actions without help. The impulsive behaviors often get them into trouble and can lead to serious consequences.

Signs of Gambling Addiction

Often referred to as a “hidden illness” gambling addiction has no obvious physical signs or symptoms that can be quickly or easily spotted. Problem gamblers often go unnoticed for many years before the signs of the addiction finally become evident even to close friends and family members. In fact, because many gambling addicts are able to control their behaviors the majority of the time, it could be very difficult to spot a gambling addiction unless you physically go with the gambler into a situation in which they are actually gambling, then you may quickly realize that they are out of control.

The following behaviors are all potential signs of gambling addiction:

· being preoccupied with gambling, playing lotto, going to the casino, gambling online, etc

· avoiding obligations at work, school, home or socially in order to spend time gambling

· avoiding friends or family members who have voiced concern of a potential gambling addiction

· financial hardships such as loss of house, car, job, or other possessions to gambling

· stealing money to gamble or to pay debts

· selling possessions to acquire money to gamble or pay debts

· inability to control behaviors despite a desire to have such control

· neglecting expenses such as bills or other financial obligations in order to gamble

· sneaking around, telling lies about gambling or otherwise masking a potential problem

· denying actions or minimizing problems

Negative Effects of Gambling Addiction

The devastation that gambling addiction can wreak on the life of those who suffer from this illness as well as those around him make this a very dangerous disorder to be reckoned with. Compulsive gambling accounts for as much as five billion dollars spent annually in the United States alone. Many of the people who are addicted to gambling find themselves accruing tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt.

The negative effects of problem gambling include:

· Financial problems including high debt, poverty or bankruptcy

· Domestic violence and child abuse in families

· Suicidal thoughts, actions or actually committing suicide

· Legal troubles including arrests for theft or prostitution

· Behavior problems in children of problem gamblers

Coping with a Desire to Gamble

During treatment, you will learn many ways to cope with cravings or your desire to gamble. It is completely normal to feel the urge to gamble, especially if you are recovering from a gambling addiction, but it can be difficult to cope with such desires in a positive way. Throughout your struggles with gambling addiction and recovery there will likely be many times that you want to gamble and struggle to make the right choice not to follow through with your desires. The following methods can help you to cope with potential triggers without relapsing:

· Get support. Your support network can keep you on track, provide you with a shoulder to lean on, a listening ear and the help you need when you feel like you might slip up. Call a family member or friend when you’re feeling like you need help or go to a Gamblers’ Anonymous meeting for moral support from others who have similar problems.

· Get distracted. If you’re bored, find something to do. If you’re getting irritated, move on. If you are in a situation that is causing you to wish you could gamble, change the situation. Do what it takes to distract yourself and to change the thoughts you are having about gambling. You might go to the gym and work out, go to a movie with friends, or find another activity to take your mind off of gambling.

· Procrastinate against gambling. If you feel like you really want to buy a lotto ticket or head to the casino, procrastinate. Tell yourself that you will wait an hour and then make a decision. In many cases, and especially as time goes on, the urge to gamble will completely pass or it will become so weak that you can resist it and move on.

· Check yourself. If you still feel like you can’t resist the urge to gamble after you have taken the above steps to prevent relapse, give yourself a reality check. Think about the feelings you will have if you do gamble, if you do spend all your money, if you do relapse. Chance are this will be enough of a reminder to keep you from falling back into the wrong path.

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